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Breaking the link between financial difficulty and suicide

Professor Louis Appleby and Councillor David Fothergill discuss the importance of prioritising suicide prevention during financially difficult times.

We are in a worrying time for suicide prevention. There is strong evidence that individuals who are economically stressed - on low incomes, unemployed or in debt - are at greater risk of mental ill-health and suicide. 

According to the charity Money and Mental Health, people with problem debt are three times more likely to have had recent suicidal thoughts. After the 2008 recession, suicide rates rose in this country and many others.

The rising cost of living represents a significant risk – already we are hearing from charities that financial worries are increasingly prominent in the calls they receive.

Local councils have been key to suicide prevention in recent years, despite huge pressures on limited resources.

We know that many are already responding to the cost-of-living impact, incorporating financial risks in local suicide prevention plans – this will be vital.

In addition, resources that may be of interest include:

  • Recommendations from Money and Mental Health, which include considering the tone of debt collection letters.
  • Guidance on suicide prevention in the government’s Debt Management Vulnerability Toolkit.
  • Breathing Space - a debt respite scheme, including council tax, where, for example, enforcement of tax collection could be paused and/or the interest paid on their debt could be frozen. It also offers legal protection from creditors to people in mental health crisis. This Money and Pensions Service website provides further information and includes e-learning modules for debt advisers.
  • Hub of Hope - a mental health support signposting tool that helps people find support that's right for them in their local area.
  • Zero Suicide Alliance - designed to support community leaders to understand the incidence of suicide in their local area, the factors that contribute to suicide, and what others are doing to tackle these issues. They also offer suicide awareness training.
  • The LGA Cost of Living Hub - designed to share best practice and help councils to support their residents with the rise in the cost of living.
  • You may also want to signpost Samaritan’s helpline number (116-123) and Shout’s text service (text 'SHOUT' to 85258).

An increase in suicide is not inevitable. After 2008 the rise was not uniform or universal. Thanks for doing what you can for those who are most vulnerable or at risk.

Professor Louis Appleby (Chair of the National Suicide Prevention Advisory Group) and Councillor David Fothergill (Chair of the Local Government Association, Community Wellbeing Board).